Islamic State orders followers to step up attacks on West, Shias
The jihadist Islamic State group has called on its followers to launch a wave of attacks against enemies around the world during the holy month of Ramadan, in an audio edict reportedly disseminated by the militant group's spokesperson on Monday.
Europe, the United States, Australia, Iran, The Philippines, Russia, Iraq and Syria were all singled out in the message, attributed to the jihadist group's official spokesman, Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer, Reuters news agency reported.
"O lions of Mosul, Raqqa, and Tal Afar, God bless those pure arms and bright faces, charge against the rejectionists and the apostates and fight them with the strength of one man," Reuters quoted al-Muhajer as saying in the clip. "Rejectionists" typically refers to Shia Muslims.
"To the brethren of faith and belief in Europe, America, Russia, Australia, and others. Your brothers in your land have done well so take them as role models and do as they have done."
The recording could not be independently verified by news outlets. It was distributed using the Telegram application, Islamic State's method of choice for communicating with its followers and one that their news agency, Amaq, uses to claim terror attacks.
Even before the message emerged, Ramadan has seen an uptick in deadly attacks carried out in the name of Islamic State, including in the countries specifically named by al-Muhajer.
The group has claimed attacks in locations including London, Kabul, Tehran, Melbourne and The Philippines during this year's Ramadan, in which observant Muslims fast during daylight hours.
The previous IS spokesman, who has since been killed, sent out a similar battle cry to extremist adherents at the beginning of Ramadan last year. At the conclusion of the religious festival, 421 people had died and 729 were wounded as a result of the carnage, according to a victim count compiled by London's The Daily Telegraph.
Those attacks included the suicide bombings at Istanbul's main airport and the shooting spree at an Orlando gay nightclub almost exactly one year ago.
While the missive encouraged a stepping up of attacks abroad, Islamic State are coming under severe pressure in what remains of their self-declared caliphate in northern Iraq and Syria, as local forces backed by a US-led air coalition continue offensives against their 'capitals' in Mosul and Raqa.
The group's much-feared chemical weapons stockpiles have been depleted and their production capability eroded as the attacks on them intensify, according to a new analysis by a British research group, published by the Associated Press.
"The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” Columb Strack, a senior analyst at IHS Markit, told the news outlet.
“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”
She added that the reduction in capabilities had seen a drop in the number of recorded chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian conflict, although the regime of Bashar al-Assad is believed by Western intelligence agencies to have launched several chemical attacks against rebels and civilians during the six and a half year war.
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